Tap the Brake: IIHS Adds Wayward Pedestrians to Its Testing Regimen

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Not satisfied with turning up the heat on automakers via new crash tests and headlight performance evaluations, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now has pedestrian avoidance systems under its microscope.

In its first round of tests, IIHS looked at the systems offered in 11 popular subcompact through midsize crossovers — vehicles that aren’t hard to imagine roaming leafy streets where wayward soccer balls (and those who chase them) lurk behind every parked car. The good news for both drivers and manufacturers? Nine of the 11 scored good marks.

Too bad about Mitsubishi and BMW…

Pedestrian detection systems use a combination of cameras and forward-facing radar to identify pedestrians and cyclists, determine whether person and vehicle are on a collision course, then, if necessary, trip the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system. The driver also gets a visual and audio warning.

It’s key that this electronic magic work properly; otherwise, you’ve paid too much for the vehicle and probably just put your neighbor’s kid in the hospital. IIHS claims it began looking into the systems’ effectiveness after stats revealed a sharp uptick in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States.

The institute tested the 2018–19 Honda CR-V, 2019 Subaru Forester, 2019 Toyota RAV4, 2019 Volvo XC40, 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018–19 Hyundai Kona, 2019 Kia Sportage, 2018–19 Mazda CX-5, 2019 Nissan Rogue, 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2018–19 BMW X1. Of these models, only the Forester, RAV4, Rogue, X1, and XC40 have pedestrian detection as standard equipment on all trims.

IIHS staff ran the vehicles through three scenarios, with performance rated as basic, advanced, or superior. The first test involved an adult entering the street (and path of the vehicle) from the right side of a road. The second saw a child bolt from between two cars, while the third test featured an adult walking, back turned, in the driving lane, near the edge of the road.

In all tests, hypothetical driver reaction time ranges from 1 to 2 seconds.

Vehicle speeds for the first two (perpendicular) tests were 12 and 25 mph; the meandering adult scenario (parallel test) saw speeds of 25 and 37 mph. Tests were performed on dry pavement, and repeated five times. Given the faux child’s sudden appearance from between two cars and the lack of driver reaction time, test No. 2 is the most crucial one. It’s also the hardest for high-tech safety systems to pass.

“Only the Forester and RAV4 avoided hitting the dummies in every perpendicular test,” the IIHS wrote in its findings. “The XC40 avoided the adult dummy in the 12 mph and 25 mph tests and avoided the child dummy in the 12 mph test.”

Even if contact is made, vehicle speed can make the difference between bruises and death. The IIHS awarded points for deceleration and for giving the driver early warning of oncoming obstacles (the CR-V and Forester earned credit for being the only two crossovers to issue a warning before brake application).

The institute found that some vehicles, despite performing well in avoidance tests with other vehicles, crapped the bed when it came to pedestrians.

“The Outlander’s autobrake system mitigated its speed by about 19 mph in the 25 mph parallel adult test and by 11 mph in the 12 mph perpendicular child test,” the IIHS stated, adding that the other tests saw only minimal speed reduction before impact.

The X1 fared worst of all. That crossover “didn’t brake at all in the 37 mph parallel adult scenario,” the institute said.

“The luxury SUV had minimal to no speed reductions in the other tests,” the IIHS found, despite the presence of BMW’s Daytime Pedestrian Detection system. You can watch the little Bimmer drilling all sorts of humanity in the video posted below. The awful performance knocked the X1 out of the ratings, earning it no score. Meanwhile, the Outlander was the only vehicle to earn a rating of “basic.”

Elsewhere, the results weren’t nearly as bad. Earning the highest rating of “superior” were the CR-V, Forester, RAV4, and XC40. “Advanced” ratings (meaning good, but not excellent) were handed out to the Equinox, Kona, Sportage, CX-5, and Rogue.

If automakers think these test results won’t harm their chances of earning a coveted Top Safety Pick award, think again. IIHS spokesman Joseph Young tells Automotive News that pedestrian crash avoidance criteria will factor into the institute’s 2020 awards.

[Image: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/ YouTube]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Millmech Millmech on Feb 24, 2019


  • THX1136 THX1136 on Feb 25, 2019

    Worried about injuring/killing a pedestrian vs not worried about terminating the life of a child in the womb (and now, in NY, after birth). Is there some sort of incongruity in the culture's/society's reasoning?

    • Jatz Jatz on Feb 25, 2019

      It would shock and educate the average liberal to actually READ comments on a site like Breitbart to see just how hard core and utterly non-racist are you anti-abortionists. As a staunch supporter of Margaret Sanger I always fell out with your kind.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.